The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and the Inspiration of unexpected finds

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is, beyond merely being a sublime name, a sublime conception, another one I am insanely jealous of, as they got there before I could. It’s a good thing really that they did because it wouldn’t be fair to ask the world to wait for me to conceive and execute all these amazing ideas. The list of things I haven’t come up with is getting exhaustively long.

More precisely, they describe themselves thus:

a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.

Much like the German concept of Schadenfreude, feeling guilty joy at another’s misfortune –  I may have added the guilty – or the Danish hgyye, that cosy connectedness we feel with the world around us, some things are such a universal part of the human experience its amazing all languages don’t have words to cover them. But perhaps more intriguingly – for me at least – is the realisation that we’d barely acknowledged the concept until we hear the word. And then suddenly our world shifts and we feel like we’ve wiped our lens’ clear.

My favourite thus far in my explorations of the site has to be Lachesism, a longing for the clarity of disaster. It seems to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment. When you take a tour of twitter and facebook or even just look at the top rated tv shows and video games, we seem obsessed with the truth and meaning that only tragedy can bring. And I love this line:

But somehow you still find yourself
quietly rooting for the storm.

But the best bit is this where he invites you to speak up, offer your own as yet undefined feeling and he will try and pin it down.


Thus far the ones that popped into my mind – and seem quite fitting  – are:

The hunger or ache we feel when confronted by something truly beautiful – a line, a refrain, a colour. Am I the only one who aches at a brushstroke on canvas? Artache doesn’t really seem to work as it sounds more like someone who’s dropped his aitches and needs to take some Gaviscon.

Here’s a few things that inspire the feeling in me..

The bittersweet desire for myths or mythological creatures to be real. Seriously, if Santa was real you know it would be a better world. We can’t have war if it means we end up on the naughty list.

I’m not sure why I am so hung up on finding a word for these as they are the sort of thing that I normally take a book to explore. But it’s one of my life’s ambitions to get a word into the oxford dictionary. So why miss an opportunity? This could be the one.

But also, because whether you begin with a word and proceed to a story or begin with a story and end with a word, either way there’s always a story. Or start with a picture. Or a thought, a question, a gesture. And I am currently about to start a new #100 happy days – how I happened across this site in fact, a very serendipitous fact – this time with the aim of finding something – anything – a word, site, gif, video – to use as a springboard for a short story.

I haven’t really been much of a fan of short stories. I’ve always felt that anything really worthwhile was worth at least 100,000 words. I like to wrap myself in a story, but I have too many novels on the go as it is and yet I am struggling to get myself back into the writing habit. Perhaps as I haven’t the time to wrap myself in anything. And having recently written a couple of shorts and found that I can still bring all the elements I enjoy and even experiment with genres and styles out of my usual, I find I’m quite excited to give it a go. So to kick start with some obscure sorrow..

#1 But somehow you still find yourself
quietly rooting for the storm.




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